'New water economy must check energy demand'
In 18 months, desalination will provide enough water for 80% of Israel’s urban drinking needs, experts say at CleanTech symposium.
Desalination plant in Hadera Photo: REUTERS / Nir Elias
As the Israeli water management and treatment industries continue to grow, it is
crucial to ensure that all facilities operate with maximum efficiency, to
prevent the loss of valuable energy, experts agreed at a conference at the Tel
Aviv Fairgrounds on Tuesday.
Water professionals and government officials
were speaking at the Energy-Water Nexus Symposium, held within the CleanTech
2013 – 17th Annual International Summit and Exhibition.
emerging from times of crisis in the area of water into stability,” Energy and
Water Minister Uzi Landau said. “We have no only continued what has started in
the past to develop desalination plants, but we are now building new and we have
extending and developed those that already exist.”
developments, however, come large energy requirements to power the desalination
plants and sewage treatment facilities that are changing the face of the Israeli
Operating energy production plants also involves the use
of plenty of water, the experts explained.
“It is clear to everyone that
there is cross-influence between energy and water,” said Oded Distel, director
of the Investment Promotion Center at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry and
head of the Israel NewTech program there.
Distel went on to add
agriculture and food security to that synergetic list, saying that with every
project in any of these categories, entrepreneurs must take under consideration
the effects the plans will have on all of the other components.
solutions are there to meet our water needs,” said Dr. Glen Daigger, president
of the International Water Association and senior vice president and chief
technology officer of US-based water firm CH2M HILL.
“The issue is that
in many of those it takes more energy to produce that additional water in
different ways,” he added.
While population growth, higher living
standards, climate change and urbanization across the world have contributed to
a “global water crisis,” solving that water crisis must occur in an
environmentally friendly way, with a reduced net amount of energy consumed,
Israeli water pumping used 3,200 gigawatt-hours in 2012,
with 1,830 of these gigawatt-hours being consumed by Mekorot National Water
Company pumps, said Dr. Yigal Kadar, manager of Mekorot’s energy
While 3,200 gigawatthours may seem small compared Israel’s
total annual electricity consumption of 57,100 gigawatt-hours, the amount
consumed by pumps is expected to rise to 10,700 gigawatt-hours by 2050 as water
needs increase, Kadar explained.
The company is therefore continuously
seeking methods to improve pump efficiency and make sure its more than 3,000
pumping units have good energy performance, he added.
people criticize the increased deployment of desalination facilities due to
their heavy energy requirements, the effici ency of these facilities can be
improved with large, energy- saving pumps, according to Prof. Rafi Semiat, dean
of chemical engineering at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in
In the early days of desalination on cargo ships in the 19th
century, evaporation of water consumed about 650 kilowatt-hours per cubic meter,
but at today’s Ashkelon facility, reverse osmosis mechanisms require only about
3.5 kilowatt-hours per cubic meter, Semiat said.
In about a
year-and-a-half’s time Israel will produce roughly 600 million cubic meters of
desalinated water per year, covering about 80 percent of urban drinking water
and requiring about 1.36% of the country’s energy supply, Semiat
Today, about 40% of energy consumed here goes to electricity,
43% to fuels, 13% to Palestinian needs and 3% to solar water heaters, he
“We can invest in more equipment, more membranes to reduce the
pressure we are working in,” he said of desalination processes, noting, however,
that this would be expensive.
“You have to remember one important point –
water is still the cheapest product on Earth,” Semiat continued.
still there are people who claim this is too much for them, and they are right.”